Barbie Doll Questions and Answers
by Marge Piercy

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Please provide an analysis of "great big nose and fat legs."

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This poem begins by describing the childhood of a young girl and how she is gifted baby dolls, toy stoves, irons, and makeup. These gifts are all not-so-subtle cues about the things that society believes a woman should value, namely, having babies, keeping house, and looking pretty. However, "in the magic of puberty, a classmate said: You have a great big nose and fat legs."

Here, the word magic is certainly used ironically—puberty does not feel magical at all, and it does not feel magical when someone tells you that you have a big nose and fat legs. This girl, remember, was taught by her toys that she is supposed to value prettiness, and, to a society that values physical beauty and has unrealistic standards that narrowly define beauty as having petite features and a svelte figure, a big nose and fat legs are ugly qualities. The classmate who judges her physical appearance as soon as she reaches puberty serves as another cue about what girls are supposed to value and how they are supposed to look. In this line, the girl is essentially told that she is not beautiful enough and that she is not good enough because she does not fit a certain mold: she does not look like a Barbie doll. Comments like this can provoke young girls to develop eating disorders, body dysmorphia, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

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